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Demand to raise cottonseed procurement price to 'factor' increase in farm labour wages

By Our Representative

Centre for Labour Research and Action (CLRA),  a labour rights NGO of informal and migrant workers in Gujarat, has written letters to cottonseed companies operating in Gujarat demanding hike in procurement rates for farmers to factor the increase in agriculture labour minimum wages rate in the state. Gujarat. A copy of the letters has been sent to the state labour commissioner.
The minimum wage for agriculture workers in Gujarat has been hiked from Rs 178 per day to Rs 340 per day, the letter says, adding, labour wages constitute a significant proportion of the production cost of the cottonseed accounting for 50 percent of the total cost.
The letter states, the seed companies the procurement price of cottonseed should tally the proportion of rise in wages, as officially stipulated, "so that the farmers are able to pay minimum wages to their workers and not employ child labour."
According to experts, Gujarat is the largest producer of cottonseed in the country accounting for almost 60 percent of the one lakh acreage for cottonseed in the country. Each acre of cottonseed requires 10 workers during cross pollination stage alone. Thus, the number of workers employed in cottonseed plots are more than half a million.
Production of cotton is undertaken through a system of contract farming where seed companies give the parent seed to the farmers and buy back the seed at pre-determined prices. Cottonseed farming is notorious for use of child labour in the cross-pollination process. Most of the cottonseed production has now shifted to tribal farms. These farmers have also been demanding a hike in the procurement price of cottonseed.
A survey of cottonseed farms conducted by CLRA, which is aligned with the union working among unorganised and migrant workers, Majur Adhikar Manch (MAM), says that currently wage rates paid to agriculture workers in cotton seed farms range from Rs 150 to Rs 200 per day.
"There are various facets of exploitation. One is the prevalence of low wages in agriculture that leads to child labour. Cottonseed crop is a labour intensive crop and that is the reason for employing children. The companies have shifted the cultivation of cottonseed to tribal farms. So child labour continues but as family labour", says Sudhir Kariyar, secretary, CLRA, who has signed the letter.

Text:

The Centre for Labour Research and Action is a labour rights NGO working for the rights of informal workers in the cotton supply chain in Gujarat for the last 15 years. Your company is a major producer of cottonseed with significant production area in Gujarat. 
We would like to bring to your notice that the minimum wage for agriculture workers in Gujarat has been hiked from Rs 178 per day to Rs 340 per day, as per the government notification and the statement by the labour minister in the Gujarat Assembly announcing the hike.
As labour wages constitute a significant proportion of the production cost of the cottonseed -- up to 50 percent according to some estimates -- we would like to know if you have factored this hike in deciding the procurement price for cottonseed to be paid to farmers.
This is very necessary to ensure that the farmers are able to pay the minimum wages to the workers employed by them and child labor is not employed on cottonseed farms. We request you to share with us the production price paid by you last year and the same for this year.

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